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The Source of All Things

The Source of All Things

A Memoir

Read by: Tracy Ross
  • reading group guide
Tracy Ross never knew her biological father, who died after a brain aneurysm when she was still an infant. So when her mother married Donnie, a gregarious man with an all-wheel-drive jeep and a love of hiking, four-year-old Tracy was ecstatic to have a father figure in her life. A loving and devoted step-father, Donnie introduced Tracy’s family to the joys of fishing, deer hunting, camping, and hiking among the most pristine mountains of rural Idaho. Donnie was everything Tracy dreamed a dad would be—protective, brave, and kind. But when his dependence on his eight-year-old daughter’s companionship went too far, everything changed.

Once Donnie’s nighttime visits began, Tracy’s childhood became a confusing blend of normal little girl moments and the sickening, secret invasion of her safety. Tormented by this profound betrayal, Tracy struggled to reconcile deeply conflicting feelings about her stepfather: on the one hand, fear and loathing, on the other hand, the love any daughter would have for her father. It was not until she ran away from home as a teenager that her family was forced to confront the abuse—and it tore them apart.

At sixteen, realizing that she must take control of her own future, Tracy sent herself to boarding school and began the long slow process of recovery. There, in the woods of Northern Michigan, Tracy felt called back to the natural world she had loved as a child. Over the next twenty years, the mountains and rivers of North America provided Tracy with strength, confidence, comfort, and inspiration. From trekking through the glaciers of Alaska to guiding teenagers through the deserts of Utah, Tracy pushed herself to the physical limit on her way to becoming whole again. Yet, as she came into her own, found love, and even started a family, Tracy realized that in order to truly heal she had to confront her stepfather about the demons from the past haunting them both. The Source of All Things is a stunning, unforgettable story about a wounded daughter, her stepfather, and a mistake that has taken thirty years and thousands of miles of raw wilderness to reconcile. Only Tracy can know if Donnie is forgivable. But one thing is for certain: In no other story of abuse does a survivor have as much strength, compassion, bravery, and spirit as Tracy displays in The Source of All Things
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  • Simon & Schuster Audio | 
  • ISBN 9781442341111 | 
  • March 2011
List Price $23.95
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Tracy Ross' THE SOURCE OF ALL THINGS

Author Tracy Ross reveals her powerful memoir about the struggle to come to terms with her childhood abuse at the hands of her stepfather.

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Prologue

Redfish Lake, Idaho, July 2007

All my dad has to do is answer the questions.

That’s it. Just four simple questions. Only they aren’t that easy, because questions like these never are. We are almost to The Temple, three days deep in the craggy maw of Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, and he has no idea the questions are coming. But I have them loaded, hot and explosive, like shells in a .30-30.

It’s July and hotter than hell on the sage-covered slopes, where wildfires will char more than 130,000 acres by summer’s end. But we’re up high, climbing to nine... see more

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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

Tracy Ross confronts her step-father while hiking in Redfish Lake, Idaho, with a tape recorder, demanding a confession. The crime: her own sexual abuse by the very man she had cared for and loved since she was a little girl. The Source of All Things is a memoir about Tracy’s struggle to understand the childhood abuse she suffered at the hands of her step-father and how she finds salvation in the raw, natural world. This is a story of the resiliency of the human spirit, our capacity to love, and ultimately, our ability to forgive.

QUESTIONS AND TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION

1. The role of a “father figure” in Tracy’s life has always been missing: “How long have I been searching for a father? Nearly as long as I have breathed air.” (p. 10) How has this void affected Tracy’s life from the start?

2. Donnie comes into the Ross family with “the kind of light only a man in need of a new family can shine.” (p. 24) Everything, at first, is perfect. He loves nature, teaches Tracy about the grandeur and beauty of the wilderness, and is exactly what this slightly battered family needed. But soon, strange traits in his parenting style appear. The day before she turns seven, Tracy believes her birthday will not be complete without first losing a tooth. Donnie agrees to help and actually tries to take out her tooth with pliers. What, already, does this say about Donnie as a parent?
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About the Author

Tracy Ross
Julia Vandenoever

Tracy Ross

Tracy Ross is an award-winning journalist and contributing editor at Backpacker Magazine, an ASME award–winning outdoor publication with 1.2 million readers. She has been published in the U.S., England, South Africa, and Australia. Her essay“The Source of All Things” has won the National Magazine Award in 2009 and has been selected for inclusion in TheBest American Sports Writing and TheBest American Magazine Writing. Her Skiing magazine story “Our Country Comes Skiing in Peace” received a notable mention in Best American Travel Writing, and her work has also appeared in Outside and Women’s Sports Illustrated.  Ross’s assignments have taken her to the wilds of Alaska, the ski slopes of Iran, and the most remote reaches of Ecuador. She writes about exotic places and intriguing people, but mainly about the wilderness and how it intersects with the most important issues in our lives. She lives with her family at 8,000 feet in the mountains above Boulder, Colorado.

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